Wholesale inventories up for May


WASHINGTON - Inventories at U.S. wholesalers rose twice as quickly as sales in May, government statistics showed yesterday, a further sign the economy cooled in the second quarter.

Wholesale inventories increased 0.8 percent in May after rising 0.9 percent in April as stockpiles of imported automobiles, machinery and electrical equipment increased, the Commerce Department reported. Sales at wholesalers grew 0.4 percent in May, up from a 0.3 percent rise a month earlier.

"Consumers simply took a breather, ..." said Richard Yamarone, senior economist at Argus Research Corp. in New York. The economy has "definitely slowed from the first quarter, but we're still at a very, very firm growth rate."

The economy probably expanded at a 3.6 percent annual pace in the second quarter, down from a 5.5 percent growth rate in the first three months of the year, according to the median forecast of 33 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News last week.

In a separate report yesterday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the bank's index of factory orders for its region fell to 14 last month from 17 in May.

Wholesaler sales of durable goods, made to last three years or more, rose 0.7 percent in May, the same as in April. May's gain was led by professional equipment, electrical hardware and machinery.

As a result of slower car and light truck sales, auto inventories increased 0.4 percent in June. Stockpiles of appliances and other electrical equipment rose 1.2 percent, while inventories of machinery increased 0.8 percent.

Sales of non-durable goods rose 0.1 percent, after falling 0.2 percent in April.

Inventories of durable goods rose 0.7 percent after a 1.1 percent gain in April. Stockpiles of non-durable goods rose 1.2 percent, after a 0.7 percent rise in April.

Wholesalers account for less than a third of all U.S. stockpiles of merchandise, with factories and retailers holding the remainder.

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